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Legislative session underway

January 22, 2016
Dean Fisher - Dist. 72 Representative , Dysart Reporter

The 2016 legislative session is underway. Monday morning we began with the swearing in of Rep. Linda Upmeyer as our new Speaker of the House. This was an historic moment not only because she is the first woman Speaker in Iowa, but she may be the first daughter of a former Speaker to attain the position in the nation. Rep. Upmeyer's father was Del Stromer who held the seat for the 69th General Assembly in 1981 and 1982. Replacing Rep. Upmeyer as House Majority Leader is Rep. Chris Hagenow of Windsor Heights. I have the utmost confidence in these two leaders, and believe we are in good hands.

This session the budget promises to be front and center in our deliberations. The House Republican Caucus remains dedicated to our four budgeting principles; 1. We will spend less than the state collects; 2. We will not use one-time money to fund on-going needs; 3. We will not balance the budget by intentionally underfunding programs; and 4. We will return unused tax dollars to Iowa's taxpayers.

To understand our situation with the state's general fund budget, we must look back a couple of years. For the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015 (Fiscal Year 2015) we budgeted to spend $6.994 billion against estimated revenue of $6.998 billion. At the end of the year the actual revenue came up short, $6.767 billion, or $227 million short. This is roughly a 3% shortfall. This shortfall had to come out of our savings from previous years, known as the "Ending Balance". In our current fiscal year, which began July 1, 2015 (Fiscal Year 2016), we budgeted to spend $7.17 billion against estimated revenue of $7.18 billion. In the 7 months since that budget was passed the revenue estimates have declined to $7.05 billion, a $120 million shortfall, or roughly 2%. Clearly we must begin to budget more conservatively. Our savings that was accrued during a period when actual revenue was higher than the revenue estimate is being depleted and we may not be able to afford another shortfall of this magnitude. I will be advocating for budgeting at 2-3% below our revenue estimate to protect us from these uncertain times.

Fiscal Year 2017 revenue estimate is $7.32 billion, leaving us with only $153 million in new money over the fiscal year 2016 spending of $7.17 billion. Unfortunately we have increases for Medicaid, education reform, property tax reform and other items that total nearly $200 million before we address increases for our K-12 schools and other needs.

Adding to the budget situation is the desire for increased funds for our public schools and timeliness in setting the increase. State law requires the Legislature to set school funding increases for two years in advance. With the uncertainty in the revenue estimates, this becomes risky business, as we are forced to set these increases very conservatively or risk even greater shortfalls . The House Republicans are committed to setting school aid funding early in the session, but without putting the state's finances at risk. School funding for 2016 was the first bill passed off House floor last session and we will work to address school funding early this session. Last session the House Republicans sent a bill over to the Senate that would increase education funding (Supplemental State Aid) for fiscal year 2017 by 2%, or $81 million. This would be in addition to the $53 million increase planned for this year for the Teacher Leadership Compensation program passed during the 2013 session. The Senate can end uncertainty for our schools by passing that 2% SSA bill and getting it to the Governor for his signature right away.

As always, please feel free to contact me at dean.fisher@legis.iowa.gov or 641-750-3594.

 
 

 

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